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The theme for this year’s Vigilance Awareness Week (2013) is ‘promoting good governance – positive contribution of vigilance’.  The practice of observing the Vigilance Awareness Week by the CVC was introduced on  31st October 2000.  This was an effort  for  creating awareness right across the spectrum of government of India organisation to begin with and the nation whole about supreme importance of ensuring that there is highest level of integrity in public life.

Corruptionis lack of integrity.It  could be lack of financial.moral or intellectual integrity.Corruption is anti economic development.a nti poo r.and antinational.It is anti good governance.

This danger of corruption has been recogniosed globally.That is why the Unied Nation adopted tin the year 2003 the UN convention against Corruption.

Before proceeding further, we should be clear about what is good governance.  As I see,see it ,there are four characteristics  of good governance.  The first is the rule of law.  As our Constitution spells out, all citizens have a  fundamental right for equality before law and  are entitled to equal protection of the law.   The second important aspect of good governance is  is, minimum if not zero corruption.  Corruption as it involves lack of integrity, distorts the whole process of administering justice.  There can be no good governance, without the rule of law and corruptiontherefore is anti good governance.  The third aspect is that the good governance should create an environment where every individual in  the society will be able to realise his or her full  human potential.  This means that there  must be  equal opportunities for self improvement and achievement for every citizen. The  system of governance must  not discriminate or deny opportunities to any citizen of the society.  The fourth important aspect is total factor productivity.  There should be no wastage of resources of any type, starting with human resources, time, financial or  physica and material resources.

If we apply the standards of good governance, it will be at once obvious that we do not have good governance in our country and particularly in the last five years i, we have been witnessing a very sharp and all round display of lack of good governance. in every sector of public life.  From 2010 onwards, we have been witnessing in the media and public life, one huge scam after another, the 2G, CWG, Adarsh Society and finally the Coalgate and Choppergate show that there is no section of government  or  public life where lack of integrity and corruption is not dominant.  The notorious publication of the Nira Radia tapes in connection with the 2G scam highlighted how practically every section of the society connected with governance especially the democratic process has  been involved in corruption.  The Nira Radia connections spread across politics, corporate sector, government and so on.  The field of sports also, as highlighted by the IPL scam and the match fixing and spot fixing scam also involves a lot of high stakes and especially financial stakes.   Corporate scandals  in the stock market have  virtually become a permanent feature ever since the liberalisation of the economy was launched by the government of India in 1991.  If during the permit licence raj, if the issue of corruption was related to the middlemen or the  liaison  men, the scams involving the stock market manipulation and misuse have been the characteristic of the post liberalisation period.  

The word ‘vigilance’ represents alertness.  There is a well known saying, ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.  If we are not alert, we are likely to lose our liberty, which in turn also means we are going to lose good governance.  We have already seen the connection between the four key aspects of good governance and how lack of integrity and corruption can have a negative impact on each one of them.  In other words, corruption is anti good governance.  

While the theme of this year’s Vigilance Awareness Week highlights the positive side  that  Vigilance can contribute to good governance, it is ironic that today, the government in its effort to save whatever  little is  left of its reputation, finds fault with the very agencies which have been specially designed to fight corruption and ensure vigilance like the Central Vigilance Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India .The CAG is   a constituitional authority especially set up  to audit the government accounts and ensure the canons of financial propriety are observed.  In fact, the main charge against the Central Vigilance Commission is this that the current government has been reduced to a state   of  policy paralysisbecause of the restrictions imposed by the CVC and the fault finding of the CAG.  The government is not able to take key and important decisions  having a bearing on attracting investments and ensuring economic development.   because any decision can be criticised on the ground that it favours one party or another. 

In fact, I would highlight at this stage  the need for observing what Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard in their book ‘The Power of Ethical Management’ say:

How can we ensure that a decision is ethical?  Peale and Blanchard recommended a three-point test.  

1.  Is the decision legal?  If it is not legal, then it is not ethical. 

2.  Is the decision fair to all parties  affected by the decision?  If it is not fair to all but benefits only some of the parties involved in the transaction, it is not ethical. Then it goes against the basic principle not only of good governance but also good business.  A good business is supposed to be a win-win exercise.  There are no participants who do not get benefit and if there is going to a loss, all share equally.  The major scams which were seen in the last 3-4 years of the current government of India always fail when  we apply  the test of fairness.  Not all parties in a decision benefit to the same extent and some are more favoured.  As the cynical comment goes in George Orwell’s sataire, the Animal Form, all animal’s are equal but some animals are more equal than others. 

3.  The third test is, will you be ashamed if the decision taken is made public and known to all ?. If so, then the decision is not ethical.

In fact the basic requirement for fighting corruption is a willingness to reduce corruption.  Many of the efforts made by different authorities today give an impression that there is no commitment of eliminating corruption but all pious overlies are uttered about which there is no controversy.  It is very easy to articulate moral  platitudes , but the real   challenge is  to practice them  in real  life. In fact the scams would not have happened, if all people involved  had observed  the three point test of ethics mentioned above.   

If the intentions of the powers that be are clear, then every problem can be tackled and we can in this country establish good governance which will be welcomed by all citizens. For example, let us take the case of all powerful black money in our system.  The estimate of black money varies from as low as 50% to much higher  so far as our economy is concerned. 

Different initiatives have been taken by the Ministry of Finance and other authorities to tackle the issue of black money.  In fact, government passed in 2003, the Anti-Money Laundering Bill and the government of India also is part of Anti money laundering convention.  Nevertheless, our track record is very poor. 

There are shocking reports that $1.4 trillion have been salted away in the tax heavens by the Indian entrepreneurs and captains of industry.  Falli Nariman, one of the finest legal brains in our country as a   nominated  Member of Rajya Sabha , has given an excellent suggestion in the floor of the House itself sometime back about how this $1.4 trillions of black money can be brought to India .He has suggested is that the government should issue an Ordinance which can be later made in to a law stating that all funds which are in the tax heavens in the name of Indian citizens will vest immediately with the government of India in an authority to be called the Custodian of Indian Citizens’ Accounts in tax heavens.  This does not mean that unilaterally the government is nationalising and grabbing all the private funds of Indian citizens in tax heavens. In the ordinanance there will also  be a provision that any citizen who can prove to the satisfaction of the Custodian that the money was legally earned and on which tax has been paid before it was deposited in the tax heaven account, will have the money returned to him and it will be his money for him to spend.  All the others who are guilty and therefore feel like a thief who has been stung by a scorpion when they were indulging in the process of stealing.   Will have to either come out in  the open and confess that it is the illegal money of theirs they have deposited in the tax heaven accounts and those who have legitimate claim can get their funds back.  There is no reason why this system can not work.  But instead of implementing the simple suggestion like Falli Nariman, the government merely went about beating the bush   by trying to bamboozle  the nation and the Members of Parliament by talking about the importance of the double tax avoidance treaties and so on.  Implementing  Falli Nariman’s idea can be the beginning of the process of cleansing of public life.  Elimination of black money will have a great impact in  reducing the domestic prices and in the process bringing clear transparency and prosperity to our country.

The main complaint of the executive is that the CVC’s initiative to check corruption cases act as a sort of a negative and demoralising effect so far as Indians are concerned.  This is a specious argument.  If the public servant is honest and he has no ulterior motive, he can take action as already provided in the law which also gives him the power to exercise discretion and take decisions.  It is only when the decisions are compromised and are not fair, audit paragraphs  arise and accountability will lead in many cases for the action to be taken against the officers concerned.  The existence of the CVC or its instructions which are designed to check corruption therefore, can not be treated as a sort of a dampener and obstruction and excuse of policy paralysis.  

In short, the vigilance organisations like the CVC act as a watch dog on behalf of the government and the public at large to ensure that the public authorities entrusted with power and resources do not misuse them and thereby ensuring in this country a good governance prevails.  We can, therefore, see a direct link between the organisation like CVC concerned with vigilance or the CAG concerned with the issue of observing the canons propriety and good governancein ensuring good governce of the nation.

The present campaign by the authorities against the role played by the agencies like CVC and CAG only reflects the attitude of those who want to indulge in corruption,  and  find these agencies  as a great bottle neck!

Surely no thief will ever give good certificate to  an efficient policeman!